With some very simple and basic but essential tips, you can quite quickly learn effective presentation skills and become a more effective trainer or teacher. So in this post, here are 7 tips for you that you can use, whether you are a freelance or corporate trainer, teacher, someone doing a presentation at work, or a student learning to do presentations. These tips should help you all!
Taken from our >> ‘Online Train the Trainer Course‘.
Tip 1: Body Language (Face and Hands)
One of the first things to consider when presenting is to think about how you use your face and hands.
Always make eye contact and look at all of your participants. Do not stare at them but do make an effort to appear to speak to each and every person present.
If the venue is big and the number of attendees numerous (let’s say more than 20) then at least look or glance at each section of people from time to time.
A word of warning though! In some cultures, it is considered rude or aggressive to look someone in the eye. So do factor in the culture and audience to whom you are speaking or teaching, and adapt accordingly.
KEY TIP: Make a point to sometimes speak and do gestures (positive ones of course) to those sitting the furthest from you to make them feel included.
Do also remember to use facial expressions that are congruent with your words. In other words, what you say should match your facial expression so as to avoid confusion. If you are saying something exciting try and look excited by it, for example.
Avoid: No playing with markers, touching your head or crossing your arms; no hands in pockets unless it is to show informality and relaxation! A great way to avoid these things is to record yourself at home with any camera (a cellphone will do) and practice presenting. You will soon see the habits you have!
Tip 2: Posture and Body Language When Presenting
If you want to make the right impression with your students or whoever you are presenting to, it is important to maintain good posture.
Good posture also helps to project the voice better, in addition to making you look more confident.
If you wish to, you can also highlight a new section in the presentation by changing your posture or position. Opening up your shoulders and arms, for example, could be used to express the idea of something starting.
KEY TIP: The key from our experience is that it often simply comes down to practice! The more times you run through your speech or lesson, the smoother and more fluent you will become. The TRUTH is that most great speakers are only the best because they practice and practice. It is that simple. With this in mind, avoid continuously reading off a piece of paper or script.
Tip 3: Positioning Your Body When Presenting
Body language is also important and given that most eyes will be on you, as the trainer at the front of the room, any unusual actions you do will of course easily be noticed and can distract your audience from focusing on the content that you are delivering.
So, when standing at the front of the room, plant your feet and do not shift your weight, and avoid pacing back and forth on the same spot.
Also, be aware that sitting changes the tone and makes the atmosphere informal. If teaching or presenting to a small group of people (i.e. everyone can easily see you if you are sat down), you might want to use sitting down as a strategy for mixing the formal with informal.
Never have your back to the group (or as little as possible if you are writing on a board).
Tip 4: Voice – Volume, Pitch, and Pauses
I was in at a conference recently and a well-renowned academic was presenting in front of 100+ people and, despite being in the front row, it was impossible to make out what he was saying.
Make sure when presenting to project your voice! Also, change the volume and pitch of your voice to add emphasis! If you need to, just ask the people at the back of the venue if they can hear you okay.
KEY TIP: Also learn to use pauses to emphasize something important. Furthermore, pauses are also useful to give time to reflect and for you to observe participants. Do not be afraid of silence!
Tip 5: Fillers and Elocution
One of the things that most of us do when first learning how to give effective presentations, is to use fillers!
Fillers are the words we unconsciously use to try and fill in between the things we are meant to say. Common fillers include ‘ah’, ‘err’, ‘ok’, ‘like’, ‘er’, ‘um’, and ‘right then’.
We all use fillers and trying to avoid using them is not easy at first.
To learn to stop using fillers the best way is the tip I gave earlier and that is to record yourself speaking and play it back. Just grab your iPhone and use the camera on the phone, for example, and record a 3-minute speech (it doesn’t matter what you speak about or how you look). Then play the video back and see what fillers you used when speaking. Keep practicing and you will begin to avoid fillers very quickly.
Finally, do not rush the end of sentences, and do not be afraid to use an informal voice. You want to sound professional of course, but you also want to speak in a way that is friendly and warm.
Tip 6: Making Use of Space in the Training Room or Classroom
Think carefully also about the space that you have available to you in the training room or classroom.
It can be a great idea to move around among participants. Move around the room looking first at a group, then another group. Do not neglect any section of the room.
Also, never sit behind a desk (unless used temporarily and as part of an intentional informal act). You might, for example, want to sit down whilst your participants are doing an activity or task that you have set them.
Or you might sit to emphasize something. Generally speaking though, for the most part, you should be standing when presenting. Also, stand close to the class unless you are using the board a lot.
Tip 7: Extra Presentation Skills Ideas
Let’s finish with four final tips.
It can be difficult when teaching or providing training to find the balance between providing enough explanation and information and giving too much.
Do not though, go on and on about something and be too repetitive. You can lose the attention of your audience if you do this too much.
Be Careful with Jargon
You will also want to be careful with the jargon you use (or what is known as ‘discourse’ in academia). In different social and cultural circles, we have different ways of speaking in terms of terminology. Even between the UK and the United States, for example, our ways of speaking are different. Differences can include:
- soccer (USA) = football (UK)
- pants (USA) = trousers (UK)
- gasoline (USA = petrol (UK)
The key is to make sure you are speaking with your audience in mind. Know who your audience is and tailor your speech, if necessary, for them.
The best presenters are the best really because of one key reason. They practice and they learn to be great presenters.
That really is the secret! Having interviewed hundreds of presenters, the idea of practicing to improve and become a good presenter was always mentioned as the key tip to presenting well.
Certainly, a few people (the lucky ones) are born with a natural ability just to be brilliant presenters.
The majority though become proficient through practice.
Watching Great Presenters
It can also be worth watching some TED talks to get a feel for what great presenting looks like.
When watching these presentations, observe the pauses at key moments, the way they move or do not move around the stage, the change of intonation for emphasis, the way they use their hands or not, and their facial expressions. And what do they do wrong that you don’t like? Try these two videos:
If you are not actually that interested in the topic you are teaching or presenting, TRY TO FIND something about it interesting and show enthusiasm.
If you really can find nothing to be enthusiastic about in terms of what you are teaching, then looking for a new job might be the best option here. Otherwise, be cheerful and you will find that this alone can help you win over those sitting in front of you as you speak. Smiling and being happy can be infectious!
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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